Reflections from the Gorge Region Survey – Eastern Gorge

by Debbie Fant

Fant collageOne of the most wonderful—and humbling—things about being a public folklorist is the opportunity to explore and document other peoples’ lives. From September 2014 through September 2015, I was lucky enough to do folklore fieldwork for the Oregon Folklife Network in Morrow and Umatilla counties, where I met and interviewed amazing people—people who were generous with their time and with their stories. I encountered keepers of tradition who didn’t think what they did was anything special. So it was an honor to be able to share those stories with a wider audience in Heppner and later in Pendleton. But sharing with a wider audience—through the internet, through photos, through exhibits—is different from bringing the stories back to the people who originally told them.

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Reflections from the Gorge Region Survey – Western Gorge

by Nancy Nusz

Native American fishing platforms on the Columbia River below the John Day Dam.

From the first inhabitants to its most recent migrants, the Columbia River and its many tributaries have always provided a source of livelihood, transportation, recreation, cultural practices, creativity, and much more. A look at the folklife of the people living in the region provides a snapshot of the diversity of cultures residing there today. The five counties of north central Oregon (Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam and Jefferson) are alive with music, crafts, occupations, foodways, practices, stories, and beliefs that have been passed down from one person to the next over generations. The people practicing these traditions are living links between the past and the present and knowing some of them can enrich all our lives.

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Folklore Fieldwork in Wheeler County

by Vanessa Cutz (OFN intern and Folklore MA ’16) and Josh Ehlers (OFN Assistant Folklorist and Folklore BA ’13)

Riki Saltzman, Josh Ehlers, and Vanessa Cutz joined folklorist Joseph O’Connell in his survey of Wheeler County over the first weekend of May. We drove through the Ochoco National Forest to get to Mitchell, a small town along Highway 26 that once thrived through the logging industry. While the town now sits quietly amidst the rim rock, juniper, and sagebrush, it anticipates a potential tourist boom now that Travel Oregon has named the nearby Painted Hills one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon.

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Folklore Fieldwork in Deschutes and Crook Counties

by Brad McMullen, OFN GSA and Folklore graduate student

Riki Saltzman and OFN’s Brad McMullen joined folklorist Douglas Manger in Deschutes and Crook Counties to do fieldwork between May 20th and 22nd. Over the weekend, we were able to meet several different tradition bearers and visit a few different cultural sites to give us a deeper appreciation and understanding of the area’s history and culture.

First, we visited master bespoke bootmaker D.W. Frommer at his studio in Redmond. Mr. Frommer has been making handcrafted boots for over 20 years. He started out as a saddlemaker, but after his teacher gave him a pair of handmade boots, he was inspired to change his craft. Mr. Frommer demonstrated his boot-making process, showing us the tricks and tools of his trade, one that goes back hundreds of years. Whenever he makes a boot, Mr. Frommer feels the presence of all those bootmakers who have come before him. He stressed the importance of training others, and he strives to pass on that legacy to all of his students.

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New Exhibit: Hoplore: Hop Culture in Oregon

Makaela Kroin


We are pleased to announce the opening of our newest exhibition, Hoplore: Hop Culture in Oregon. Hoplore celebrates the history, traditions, and regional cultures linked to the hop plant. Hopflowers, best known as a flavoring and stabilizing ingredient in beer, have played a critical role in Oregon’s agricultural heritage for more than 150 years. The cultivation of hops has brought together diverse peoples to plant, harvest, and brew this unique botanical, which is also associated with a range of folk remedies for insomnia, indigestion, and various other ailments.

Hoplore: Hop Culture in Oregon traces over 150 years of hops cultivation in Oregon through worker profiles, farm tools, historical photographs, and a short documentary. While Oregon’s heritage hop yards are 3rd and 4th-generation family businesses, small hop farms are enjoying a renaissance throughout the Willamette Valley, revitalizing and re-envisioning hop cultivation and its traditional practices.

Makaela Kroin, a graduate student in the Folklore Program, curated the exhibition, which has been part of the research and fieldwork for her degree.

To view Hoplore: Hop Culture in Oregon, visit OFN’s Window Gallery on the second floor of University of Oregon’s Knight Library in Eugene.


Welcome, New Staff!

RidoutEmily Ridout, M.A., is OFN’s Interim Program Manager through July 2016.  She holds a concurrent position as the Program Coordinator for the Confucius Institute for Global China Studies. Ridout has an MA in Folklore and a certificate in New Media and Culture from the University of Oregon where she filmed, edited, and produced documentary films on topics ranging from environmental tourism to the chemistry of effective birth control.  Her research interests include intersections of culture and environment, poetics, foodways, documentary, and religion. While a graduate student intern and post-graduate fellow at OFN, Ridout worked on the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program and a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship nomination.

Ridout strives to develop and promote meaningful cultural programming in ways that are innovative, sustainable, and respectful. Before coming to the University of Oregon, Ridout led educational and adventure trips in the Fiji Islands, the Southern California mountains, Kentucky, and throughout the Midwest and Appalachia. When she is not working with cultural programming, she can be found teaching and practicing yoga, hiking, or writing what she hopes is the next great American novel.


brunoBruno Seraphin
, Oregon Folklife Network’s Winter Fellow, is a folklorist, narrative and documentary filmmaker, and musician. Originally from Massachusetts, he earned a BFA in Film Production from New York University and lived in Appalachian North Carolina for several years, before moving to Eugene to complete an MA in Folklore Studies at the University of Oregon. His academic and professional interests include environmental justice, human-plant relationships, philosophies of place and space, anti-racist organizing, collaborative film-making, and the ways that social movements generate and use stories.

Seraphin produced and directed the award winning experimental independent film “If I Had Wings to Fly,” which explores traditional music and storytelling in Western North Carolina. It was featured at the Folklorists in the South conference in 2012. His newest documentary, “Year of the Possum: The Green Grass Cloggers’ 40th,” will premiere in 2016. Seraphin’s MA thesis, “Stories We Live: On the Hoop with Nomads of the Northwest,” is an ethnography of a grassroots network of nomadic, mostly white “rewilders.” His subjects use Indigenous ecological knowledge to harvest and replant wild foods in the Great Basin region of the United States, particularly northeastern Oregon. Seraphin’s thesis pays special attention to their land ethic and their interactions with Native groups.

During spring 2016, Seraphin will serve as a Project Coordinator for a series of collaborative documentary videos for the Museum of Natural and Cultural History and Oregon Tribes.

Passing it on: The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program – Deadline for applications is April 1!

Brad McMullen

We are currently accepting applications from master artists and their apprentices for our Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (TAAP). One of the Oregon Folklife Network’s cornerstone programs, TAAP assists master artists to teach and pass on their living traditions to promising apprentices from the same cultural background. Master artists receive stipends to cover training and a final public presentation. Our biannual awards ceremony invites legislators and government officials to recognize master artists.

Download the application on our website and submit by April 1st.  Send us your draft application early for preview and helpful feedback before final submission!

Artists from a number of different traditions have participated in TAAP over the years. For a full list of participants, check out our new Oregon Culture Keepers Roster – just type “TAAP” into the keyword search to see the full list. 2015 recipients are: rap and hip hop emcee, Mic Crenshaw; bharatha natyam Indian dancer, Dr. Jayanthi Raman; traditional Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw storyteller, Patricia Whereat Phillips; traditional saddle maker, Len Babb III; master silversmith, Pat Horlacher; and elders from the Burns Paiute Tribe (Alma Kennedy, Betty Hawley, Phyllis Miller, Wanda Johnson, Myra Peck) who are teaching moccasin making. OFN is honored to support these master artists in their efforts to keep and pass on their cultural traditions to the next generation. Keep your eye on our Vimeo and YouTube pages for our interviews with these artists – and be sure to check out the interviews with some of our previous master artists while you wait!

Funding for TAAP comes from the National Endowment for the Arts Folk & Traditional Arts disciplineOregon Arts Commission and Oregon Community Foundation’s Fred W. Fields Fund. Additional support from the Oregon Historical Society and the University of Oregon makes this program possible.


State Legislators Recognize Traditional Artists

Picture4On November 16th, the OFN recognized 28 master artists and four years of our Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program with an award ceremony hosted at the beautiful Oregon State Library in Salem. Legislative representatives and senators presented framed certificates to artists from their districts and acknowledged their important contributions to Oregon’s living cultural heritage.


Master artist Esther Stutzman opened the ceremony with a traditional Kalapuya story. The audience of artists, family members, legislators, state officials, and University of Oregon administrators were also treated to Alex Llumiquinga Perez’s performance of traditional Andean music on his handmade charango and cajón, rapper and hip hop emcee Michael “Mic” Crenshaw’s powerful spoken word poems, and Antonio Huerta’s impromptu charrería rope-twirling.


Several representatives from OFN’s operational partners also took part. MaryKay Dahlgreen (State Librarian, Oregon State Library) welcomed everyone. Brian Rogers (Executive Director, Oregon Arts Commission & Oregon Cultural Trust) and Eliza Canty-Jones (Editor, Oregon Historical Quarterly; Director, Community Engagement, Oregon Historical Society) said a few words of appreciation for the artists and took a hand in presenting certificates. Doug Blandy (Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs) represented the University of Oregon, which provides OFN with so much support.



The afternoon began and ended with a reception and OFN’s latest exhibition, which features Oregon’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program and the artists from 2012-2016. OFN’s exhibit developer and folklorist, Lyle Murphy, curated this beautiful portrait of the e exhibit, which will be on display through January, 31, 2016 at the State Library. Make sure to bring your friends and family to view it!

FisherPoets Exhibit On Display

Julie Meyer


In September, OFN opened the exhibit “Shifting Tides: Women of the FisherPoets Gathering” in our Knight Library office Window Gallery on the University of Oregon campus. This exhibit highlights the creative work that women fishermen Moe Bowstern, Erin Fristad, and Tele Aadsen perform at the annual FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon. The FisherPoets Gathering encourages commercial fishermen to share their occupational experiences through their creative expressions. The Gathering offers women fisherpoets a space to begin disrupting the underrepresentation of women working in a predominantly male occupation.


The exhibit consists of three cases and two wall panels. The first case provides a brief history of the FisherPoets Gathering, while the second provides an excerpt from Moe Bowstern’s “Subcutaneous Layer of Fat,” a prose work that addresses sexist expectations for women fishermen. Copies of the FisherPoets Anthology, Anchored in Deep Water, and Bowstern’s XTRATUF zine line the bottom of the case.


The final case displays fishing gear, commercial grade rain gear, netting, a slide show of women fishing in Alaska, and various other objects that exhibit coordinator and folklorist, Julie Meyer, gathered during her fieldwork on commercial fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska. A final panel provides excerpts from Erin Fristad’s poem “Advice to Female Deckhands” and Tele Aadsen’s prose piece “Being a Female: An Unwelcome Reminder” both of which deal with issues of inequality that women fishermen face. The exhibit will be on display through mid-February 2016.

Fieldnotes: Columbia River Gorge Folklife Survey

Nancy Nusz

To understand how the land and environment help to shape traditions that people use in their daily lives, one simply has to take a trip to Sherman and Gilliam counties. Steep rolling hills, defined by narrow, winding ravines with swift flowing rivers, limited rainfall, and constant wind are steadfast companions of those living in the region. Over generations, people have learned how to fashion a living out of this land and how to enjoy the shear uniqueness of their place. They use the knowledge and skills passed down to them by their grandparents, parents, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to preserve a way of life that is full of history, crafts, specialized work, fun, stories, and so much more. Here are a few of the ranchers and farmers who make up the population of these north central Oregon counties.

Jamie Wilson and Cathy Brown

Jamie Wilson and Cathy Brown; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Cathy Brown’s parents were wheat and cattle ranchers in Bakeoven, her father’s community. Her mother came from Dufur where her grandparents ran cattle. Cathy’s early memories of working on the ranch include typical tasks children would do such as feeding the farm animals, driving tractors, and preparing the lunches for work hands. As she got older, Cathy took on more responsibilities such as gathering the cattle, birthing calves, and eventually, doing the most technical and difficult jobs on the ranch. During her teens, Cathy was active in 4-H where she became friends with Jamie Wilson.

Jamie Wilson with leatherwork; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Jamie Wilson with leatherwork; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Jamie Wilson grew up in Grass Valley on a few acres where the family kept horses, chickens, and other animals. She got her first horse when she was five years old. Her mother was from a long line of ranchers but her dad’s family moved to Oregon from Michigan. He spent his younger years near Antelope and as a young man worked for local ranchers and wheat farmers until eventually he bought a couple of ranches. Jamie started working cattle with her dad when she was a kid. She particularly loved going with him up to the old Payne Place that he had purchased. Here, on a high ridge facing Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson, Jamie worked hard learning all the cowhand skills it takes to run that ranch today with her friend Cathy. After high school Jamie thought seriously about becoming a saddle maker so she attended a three-month course at Sierra Saddlery School in Bishop, California; while there, she made two full saddles. When Wilson returned she couldn’t find a saddle maker to apprentice with but she kept doing all sorts of other leatherwork including queen chaps for rodeos. Today, she spends much of the winter months making chinks, chaps, horse tack, and many other items, mostly custom ordered.

Ron Wilson with leatherwork; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Ron Wilson with leatherwork; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Ron Wilson works in his leather shop in the back of the Ace Hardware store in downtown Arlington. Ron’s family originally came from Pennsylvania then settled in Wallowa County where he was born. He grew up on a small farm but learned basic leatherwork from Arlene Rucker, who taught a 4-H class. Ron kept his tools and got them out during the winter months to make leather items. About 12 years ago he got back into full time leatherwork after a friend convinced him to repair something that he needed. Ron keeps busy making chaps, chinks, belts, purses, rodeo queen outfits, tack, and just about any other type of leather goods. Even though he doesn’t make saddles, he always has one or two around that he repairs for cowboys. Ron and his wife, Marta Mikkalo, are active members of the Arlington Saddle Club, which puts on the annual Arlington Jackpot Rodeo.


Arlene Rucker shows a piece of her wheat weaving; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Arlene Rucker shows a piece of her wheat weaving; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Arlene Rucker is someone people across Gilliam County know by name, face, and reputation. Born in Nampa, Idaho, she moved with her family to Oregon during the war years when her parents came to work in the defense industry. Once grown, Arlene married a local wheat farmer with whom she’d gone to high school, and moved with her new husband to the farm where they lived for 35 years. With wheat a constant in her life, Arlene took a wheat weaving class in the 1970s from Sandra Greenfield, a local Condon wheat weaver. Arlene had seen wheat weavings and thought that since she and her husband were raising it, she would like to know how do make something out of it. Many wheat weavers use wheat bought from Nebraska but Arlene insisted on making her items out of the wheat from her own fields. She also learned quilting from her mother and became so proficient that her peers now recognize her as a master quilter.

Paul Bates showing wheat farm equipment; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Paul Bates showing wheat farm equipment; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Paul and Donna Bates live on Paul’s father’s farm, where Paul grew up learning farming and ranching skills. As a youngster he was involved in 4-H and did projects with pig, heifer, and other livestock breeding, and much more. In 1983, the family quit raising cattle to focus solely on wheat production. Paul has seen many changes in farming since boyhood, especially in the mechanization of farming. Today he has a large assortment of highly specialized equipment that he and his family use for the various stages of wheat production. During a particularly bad year, the Bates family briefly considered getting out of farming; at that time, Donna decided to diversify their income by creating a healthier snack food. After lots of trials and errors, Donna developed six different flavors of what she calls popped wheat berries. These unique products are grown and made right on the farm at her Wheat Springs Bakery.

Sam Seale at White Elephant Ranch; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Sam Seale at White Elephant Ranch; photo courtesy of Nancy Nusz

Sam Seale owns the “White Elephant Ranch,” which might sound like a strange name for a ranch located north of Condon; the story of how it got its name is part of his rich family lore. As a young man, Sam’s dad bought a piece of property to raise sheep and cattle. There were several other homesteads nearby, and during the Depression their neighbors couldn’t hang on to their ranches. Sam’s dad starting buying them as they came up for sale. Because the country there is high and dry, rendering it difficult to grow anything, his dad used to say that all those properties weren’t anything but white elephants. The name stuck. Sam has many stories about his father and his own years growing up on the White Elephant Ranch.



Frank Bettencourt builds wooden miniatures of farm equipment. Bettencourt moved to Gilliam County in 1948 to work as a farmer and cowboy. He worked on someone else’s ranch until 1967 when he and his wife Garnet bought their own 2,500 acres place. In 1981, they sold their ranch and now live in Condon where Frank has a large woodworking shop in a separate building next to their house. Frank’s grandfather was a builder in Portland, and, as Frank says, he “just grew up with it.” The objects that he makes are done without patterns and come directly from his imagination. He visualizes something then makes it. Many of his pieces are replicas of equipment like combines that Frank once drove on the farm. His birdhouses often resemble old western buildings or churches; and the one in his backyard is almost an exact model of the huge grain elevator that stands directly behind his and his wife’s house. Frank’s wooden vehicles have moving parts, which leave visible the grain and uniqueness of the wood.

Nancy Nusz is an independent folklorist who has been conducting fieldwork for the Oregon Folklife Network’s Columbia Gorge Regional Folklife Survey, which is funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works.